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THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY REUNION TO CELEBRATE OUR ATTESTATION AS A RAF AIRCRAFT APPRENTICE ON 20 MAY 1959  

The 50th anniversary of our enlistment took place at RAF Halton on the weekend 23/24th May 2009 and what a glorious weekend it turned out to be.  The weather could not have been kinder to all the members and their wives or partners who attended, for many, their first meeting in 47 years. 

From the 3 hotels we were billeted, coaches transported us to Halton which looked magnificent in the evening sunshine with the airfield, running track, Schools, Workshops and other places all evoking personal memories for each and every one of us.  To Main Point where, hopefully, Joe Bollard looked kindly down on us and then, via Henderson Groves area, to the Museum where more memories were re-kindled of what our time at Halton was all about - talk of filing and test pieces seemed to be predominant! 

And so to dinner.  Piped in by the Golden Oldies Keith Youlden this was, for many of us the first time we had set foot in a Halton airmen's' mess since leaving and what a pleasant surprise - no senior entry bods pushing in, no trough of grey, tepid, water where your mug and irons came out dirtier than when they went in and to top it all, a very enjoyable meal.  Toasts were proposed to the organizing committee after which we were treated to some glorious pipe music from Keith and then, much to our amazement and enjoyment, from our own Trumpet Major Barney Barnsley.  The evening was rounded off in the bar of Halton House where again a lot of 'catching up' seemed the order of the day.

On Sunday we returned to Halton House for coffee followed by an enlightening talk by Min on the history and, seemingly, its future for many years to come.  Many took the opportunity to wander around the magnificent rooms while a few said they'd seen it all before - filling shoes with water and raising the Jolly Roger on the roof flagpole!

After Halton House we re-assembled at the church for the re-dedication of the entry window. Min, once again gave us an interesting talk - this time on how the entry window idea came about.  Imagining the window in its original form one can understand the Padre's comment about lavatorial!  Wally Epton gave the reading and Roger Stigant regaled us with facts and figures concerning the 92nd.  Easy to see now why we were the best!  After the service there were photos at the tribute before a final round of handshakes and farewells with promises made about meeting up again at the next Tri-ennial and, hopefully, the 50th anniversary of our graduation

Of course, none of this would have taken place if it weren't for the sterling efforts of a few committed people.  We have to thank Vic Rice, Barney Barnsley, Geoff Supple, Tony King and Al Farley for bringing all the loose ends together to produce a brilliant weekend.  Thanks to Dave Banks who again provided us with the very professional name badges, to Min Larkin and the museum staff for their time and enthusiasm, to our wives and partners having to put up with our childish delight as old friendships were re-established and faces, some not seen for decades, were recognised, and finally, to all of us who made the effort to attend - I'm sure we all came away from it a little richer for the experience.

Mik Frost  (Engines)


THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY REUNION TO CELEBRATE OUR GRADUATION FROM RAF HALTON ON 18 APRIL 1962 HELD AT THE BELLHOUSE HOTEL BEACONSFIELD

It's hard to believe that 3 years have passed since we commemorated the 50th anniversary of our enlistment but, on the weekend of the18/19th May 2012, 58 members of the entry and 34 wives, partners and a daughter gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our graduation.  Two members of the entry made journeys above and beyond the call of duty from the far-flung Empire- Brian Williams from Australia and Derek Orr from Canada.  The weekend took place, fittingly, at the Bell House hotel at Beaconsfield, the same venue as for our graduation dinner.

The atmosphere on that Saturday afternoon, when most people were arriving, seemed to become more charged as friendships were renewed and faces, some not seen since 50 years previously, were recognised.  I'm sure that wives could not believe they were listening to their, ordinarily sensible, other halves becoming more animated and juvenile as the years rolled back and past adventures and misdemeanours alike were recalled.

Gathering in the bar to carry on from the afternoon and for pre-dinner drinks, we were soon summoned to dinner by a Golden Oldies piper - Sam Wright (97th entry). The dinner was an excellent meal, promptly and efficiently served.

We had a guest of honour - Min Larkin - and how fitting because Min seems to have taken on the responsibility on behalf of all apprentices to keep alive the spirit of Halton, and all it stands for.  He provided us with an excellent amusing and anecdotal after-dinner speech that rounded off what was a most enjoyable evening.

On Sunday morning, those of us going to Halton said our farewells to those not making the trip.  At Halton House we were once again entertained by Min who gave an enlightening and interesting talk on the history of the house and, seemingly, its future for many years to come.  Many took the opportunity to wander around the magnificent rooms while a few (no names, no pack drill) said they'd seen it all before - filling shoes with water and raising the Jolly Roger on the roof flagpole!

After Halton House we assembled at St. George's church for the re-dedication of the entry window.  Thanks to Paul Amos who gave the reading and a special word of thanks to Roger Stigant for his warm and thought-provoking talk on this important occasion with a summary of our time at Halton - taking us back to think of the ups and downs, the seemingly endless cleaning and spit and polish, our many sporting achievements, of summer camp at Penhale and many others.  We were reminded of the high standard of instruction in both Schools and Workshops and that now, in our later years, we recognise the huge influence that those 3 years had on our lives and achievements both in and out of the Royal Air Force.  Easy to see now why we were the best! 

Our numbers have decreased over the years as members have passed on to the Great Hangar in the sky - they are sadly missed but their memory will always be with us

Roger also reminded us of the design concept for the entry window - the entry badge of course, with a view of the Chiltern Hills and a sunset sky showing the Pole Star as an aiming point. He added some background information on the creators of the window - Keith Barley and Helen Whittaker of Barley Studios, York, who have carried out work for Lichfield Cathedral, Beverley Minster and the Royal Air Force Club in Piccadilly to name but a few.

After the service there were photos at the Tribute before a lunch at Henderson Mess.  It was an interesting experience trying to eat off plastic-coated paper plates with plastic cutlery but the food was very good.  Then it was off to the museum to re-connect ourselves with fragments of the past we'd forgotten, before a final round of handshakes and farewells with promises made about meeting up again at the next Tri-ennial and organising something for our 55th anniversaries

And so, how did it all come about?  Well, the truth is it wouldn't have happened at all if it weren't for the efforts of those stalwart figures working backstage.  In particular, we have to thank 'Barney' Barnsley whom, whenever I was in contact with him, seemed to be involved in every aspect of planning for the occasion.  Modest man that he is, 'Barney' wishes to thank Seb Rees of 'travel services.com', Essex for the work he did, even up to the last moment, in arranging the accommodation.  Thanks also to Colin Munslow, Geoff Supple, Dave Banks and Paul Amos for providing the Entry banner and shields, Vic Rice for paying the bills, Tony King for liaising with the RAFHAA Office to ensure that the visit to Halton went off smoothly and for greeting members as they arrived and Ken Cochrane for being everywhere with his camera to record the occasion for posterity. Not forgetting, of course, Tom Chamberlain for entertaining us all with a reworked version of his own composition “The 92nd Entry Song”.  

Perhaps the biggest thanks should go to every one of us who was able to attend, making the celebration such a success for the organisers. 

Mik Frost  (Engines)


92ND ENTRY REUNION TO CELEBRATE 50 YEARS SINCE GRADUATION WINDOW RE-DEDECATION SERVICE
SUNDAY 20TH MAY 2012

Good to see you here chaps. I apologise for repeats in this synopsis of the entry history and Min (bless him) said quite a bit for me - but it shows we all think and feel the same; it’s called bonding.

On our arrival at RAF Halton on 19th May 1959 was the start of a very big event in our young lives.

After signing on the dotted line we were marched back to our bed spaces. It was off with our civvies, which we parceled up in brown paper to be returned to our parents. So began the three years which were to shape the rest of our lives. We were thrown together in large barrack rooms, disciplined with drill, P.T. and domestication – i.e. BULL, SPIT AND POLISH. It has been calculated that we consumed 60,750lbs of meat, 243,000lbs of potatoes and 240,000 eggs! Oh yes we grew tall and gained weight. One guy gained 10 inches in height and another up to 63lbs in weight.

Looking back now, I think we were lucky and somewhat blessed compared to today’s young people going off to college or university. No one had to worry about 9,000 fees and student loans. We were fed, clothed, kept fit and paid just enough for us to get by. But the most important thing for which we joined were the further education opportunities and a mechanical/electrical apprentice training which was second to none. This was delivered to us by men who knew their stuff and who were true down to earth skilled tradesmen.

Most, if not all of us have benefitted well from our time at Halton. The results on pass out showed that we scored above average in skill and knowledge, living up to our entry motto of “Manu et Scientifica” translated as “by skill and knowledge” But let’s face it; it was hard and tough going at times with the daily grind, parades, inspections schools, workshops and nuisance pranks by senior entries – usually at night. You can’t forget being tipped out of bed and finding boots with laces removed piled up in the bath!

We really started to bond together after the big 3 wing change round, coming together as No 1 Squadron in No 1 Wing with red hatband and red wheel disc. Our entry developed a pride in itself. There was plenty of opportunity for sport, 52 members represented the school in athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, cross country running, cycling, fencing, hockey, rugby, shooting, soccer, swimming, and water polo. Paul Snook came in for special mention representing the RAF in cross country.

A team entered the annual Ten Tors Competition, coming 2nd out of the 160 uniformed organisations. On re-reading the Commandants Report, I saw that 23 members had gained Gliding Proficiency Certificates.

We enjoyed inter-wing band competitions and it always seemed easier marching up and down the hill to workshops and schools with the pipe band in full swing. Our favorite tune was the “Bear”. We had to look out for the SWO – Joe Bollard – “no foot scraping” and “swing those arms”! There were a number of characters in the band, Pipe Major “Ginge2 Makepeace being one. Sadly he passed away last year after a short illness. You may recall listening to the radio broadcast when our trumpeters including Trumpet Major Barney Barnsley proudly played at the Cenotaph Remembrance Sunday November 1961.

Other events come to mind. The summer camp at Penhale sands in Cornwall was an introduction to military field kitchens, living in military style tents and the duties involved, such as tending the loos, mess serving and litter picking. The weather was gorgeous so it felt a bit of a holiday way from Halton. Well it did to me.

Christmas 1961, the entry organized and funded a party for 40 children from local orphanages. This was followed by a competition in the barrack block to find the best decorated room. The flight commander was most impressed by the well constructed Santa’s Grotto in one of the rooms. However, he did not realize that the “escape committee” had hidden a quantity of alcohol in it which was consumed after lights out.

The 3 years came to a close with our pass-out parade being held on 18th April 1962. It was a grey and damp day but the entry still put on what the reviewing officer called “a first class parade”. Celebrations were completed at the entry dance where we were entertained by the late Johnny Dankworth and his orchestra in the California Ballroom Dunstable. 

So now we have come full circle after 50 years. We must all be Senior Citizens by now! We have served our country, taken up other careers, found new hobbies, sports and become involved in charity work. The Pole star as depicted in our entry window is a guiding star or aiming point for future endeavours. Our entry members have shown how this has been significant in their lives. Wally Epton our WO apprentice succeeded in getting a cadetship at Cranwell where he started his flying career, finishing his service as a Squadron Leader. He went on to form his own company flying executives. This year Wally was made Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators. He and Jan his wife spent a busy year visiting draughty airfields and hangars around the globe. There must be more untold stories of successes from many of our entry. Hopefully, you have had a chance this weekend to catch up on a few. It is a pleasure to be associated with such people.

On your behalf our thanks go to Min Larkin and members of the HAAA including our own Tony King, Barney (or should I say Christopher?) for all their time and help in keeping the show on the road. Grateful thanks also go to our Padre and organist for this service of dedication.

Finally, in the words of Tom Chamberlain: (If it works don’t mess around with it!)

Now the years have slipped away

And we’re gathered here today

To recall our History

And although we’re knocking on

The spirit is still strong

IN THE NINETY SECOND ENTRY.

Roger Stigant (Armament)